Since its formation in June of last year, R Street Institute has seen tremendous growth and certainly much of that growth can be credited to Eli Lehrer who is the president and co-founder.
Although Lehrer loves his role in the liberty movement now, it wasn’t an expected outcome for him. Lehrer grew up in a left-wing household and considered himself liberal or progressive right through his senior year of college. At the behest of Karl Zinsmeister, who was the editor for American Enterprise Institute’s magazine and later, domestic policy advisor to the second Bush administration, Lehrer came to Washington and began working as a reporter for a Washington Times affiliated magazine. With the work came changing beliefs, “I honestly never really set out to have a career in the liberty movement, although it turns out I’ve loved having one.”
This success has not always been easy, however. Lehrer says that one of the chief challenges that he has faced has come from his transition from a journalist to a manager. “The biggest challenge was realizing that my role is different. As a scholar or think tank activist, a fair part of your job is really to promote yourself and build a personal brand, but as a leader one of my most important jobs is to promote the people who work for me and to make sure they succeed.” Lehrer says that to do this, he had to acquire some new skills and refine ones that he had.
Doing something that was intellectually challenging and important always appealed to Lehrer and his role at R Street certainly fits the bill. In his time there he has seen many threats to liberty but Lehrer says that the current state of the conservative movement itself is a threat to liberty. “Although the left’s solutions to almost all problems are awful, we as a movement, have not done nearly enough to advance positive, principled conservative alternatives to them.” Lehrer says that the healthcare debate has been a perfect example of this: where the left has proposed an awful solution and the right’s only response has been to say, “No!” but without advancing any of their own ideas. This practice, he says, will inevitably lead to a continued diminishing of liberty.
Lehrer does offer three pieces of advice for young professionals: “First, learn to write well. You probably aren’t that good of a writer even if you think you are. Good writers are always in demand. Learn to become one. Second, don’t assume people who disagree with you have sinister motives. They rarely do. Most liberals do think they are doing the right thing. Remember that even when people act out of bad motives they are typical common human weaknesses like a desire for money or fame rather than some sinister master plan. Third, stay busy. As a general rule you will get more done if you take on more projects. Don’t be afraid to do so.”
According to Lehrer, America’s Future Foundation has been incredibly beneficial in his career. “AFF enabled me to meet people from all corners of the liberty movement and build my personal network better and faster than I could have by other means. I’m still in close touch with many friends who I made through AFF.”
Given R Street’s quick growth the future of the organization seems bright. “R Street’s success is due in large part to the organization’s great staff. I honestly think we’ve brought together the best team in D.C. Our plans are to continue our growth and provide the real, forward thinking, solutions and vision for limited, effective government that conservatives seem to have forgotten. We’re not going to be quiet.”
Rick Barton is an intern with America’s Future Foundation and a graduate of SUNY Geneseo.
If you are networking correctly, you will find yourself attending many events within the liberty movement.
In addition to networking opportunities, these events can be a boon to unpaid or low paid interns when they are catered. However, food etiquette goes far beyond putting a napkin in your lap or knowing what fork to use and this free food could be a potential pitfall if you don’t follow the proper etiquette.
The first and most important rule is to not overindulge. This lesson is most important for alcoholic drinks but it can be almost as important with food. When you pile your plate with food, not only does it delay those in line behind you, it also makes you look very unprofessional. Only take a small and reasonable amount of food, one or two of the entrees and small portion of whatever sides are available. Most of the time it is possible to discreetly return and get more once everyone has gone through the line.
Another often made mistake is to fill up a plate of food in one hand and hold a drink in your other while at a mingling event. Doing this closes you off as you are unable to shake hands or exchange business cards. While this may be unavoidable, always remember that your primary goal should be to network, not to eat. In general, try to spend as little time eating as possible. This is not saying to eat as fast as possible, but rather to budget your time properly.
Finally, remember to clean up after yourself. Throw away your trash, pick up dropped food and if possible thank your host and servers. After all, it may be free for you but we all know that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Rick Barton was an intern with America’s Future Foundation in summer 2013 and is a graduate of SUNY Geneseo
Hadley Heath is a senior policy analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum where she specializes in health care, entitlements, economics, fiscal and public policy. Heath’s interest in politics grew slowly over time. “I always thought that only politicians worked in politics… When I was little I wanted to be the first female president, but what little girl didn’t want that?”
Heath was not without political influence; her grandfather was a campaign man for both Ronald Reagan and Jesse Helms, as well as the author of five books on conservative thought. “That sort of thing has a way of bleeding through. He’s probably a bigger influence on me than I realize.”
Heath says that she was always asking questions and driving her teachers crazy but it wasn’t until high school when her mom told her about non-profits that she learned about policy. She began college pursuing a degree in journalism and dramatic arts. Dramatic arts was quickly swapped for a degree in economics. “I heard the saying, ‘Nothing is more political than theater and there is nothing more theatrical than politics’ and here I am.”
As to the greatest current threat to liberty, Heath focused on the lack of virtue cultivation in society. “It’s not always popular, especially among libertarians, to acknowledge that there is an important place for virtue or to strive towards virtue in society. We can help others live better, just not through legislation.”
Heath says that the family structure has traditionally been the source of that virtue cultivation but with a changing family structure, which is not necessarily bad, has come an increasing reliance on the government to cultivate virtue which is a mistake.
When asked what was the greatest challenge she has faced in her career she stated that the greatest difficulty with working in policy is the intangible nature of the results. Where doctors and teachers can see the direct results of their work, for those in policy success isn’t nearly as visible.
Another difficulty she says is that in working with a small non-profit there is a lot of uncertainty, each day she is doing something different and while it can be rewarding that uncertainty can be stressful at times. “Truly though I can say that I’ve been blessed. I’ve been in the right places at the right times.”
According to Heath, being in the right place at the right time is not always due to luck. Her advice to young professionals is that, “As a general rule, always say yes to new experiences… always say yes to something the first time and if you hate it, you don’t have to do it again. Saying yes allows you to experience new things and figure out what you love.” Heath credits her success to saying yes to so many different roles and responsibilities which in turn presented more opportunities.
As a closing topic Heath talked about how America’s Future Foundation has helped her in achieving her career goals. “The panels and events that AFF have done have been especially beneficial. They allow you to meet the people behind the ideas. When you’re just starting out, having an opportunity to meet and network with those even a few years ahead of you can be really helpful.”
Read her bio and latest work here.
Rick Barton is an intern with America’s Future Foundation and a graduate of SUNY Geneseo.
Asking questions at an event or a seminar can be one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd and gain recognition. A well phrased question can make a good impression on colleagues and supervisors. Yet, contrary to what you were taught in grade school and college, there are such things as bad questions. All too often questioners make several errors which leave others in the room shaking their heads. Whether they’re off topic, too long, too complex or too hostile, a bad question can leave everyone in the room with a negative view of the questioner. Below are a few guidelines and tips to help you make a good impression.
1. Have something to ask. This seems incredibly obvious yet many times people treat question and answer segments as merely a space to foster their own ego. Unless you have a direct question that you want an answer to or you wish for panelists to discuss a certain topic then it is probably best to refrain from speaking. While asking a question can be great for making an impression, that should always be a side effect and never the goal. Make sure that your question does not concern basic information that it was assumed everyone in attendance had. Also make sure you are not asking something that has already been answered previously. Each of these errors makes you appear uninformed or inattentive.
2. Be Clear. Make sure that your question actually has a question in it. Too often people phrase questions as a series of statements and the questioner is asked what their actual question was. Not only does this waste time but it also reflects poorly on the questioner.
3. Be concise and to the point. This is the most common error made when asking a question. If you have something to ask, make sure you can ask it in a few sentences. Nothing loses an audience’s attention faster than the reading of a person’s life story in the form of a question. If you have a question that takes longer to ask or requires a very in-depth response consider asking the speaker or panelist after the event has finished if possible. Not only will you save your colleagues the wait but you’ll also get a more direct response and make a better impression.
4. Be respectful. Even if you disagree with the person you’re asking the question to, refrain from being hostile or rude. Not only does framing your question as an argument reflect poorly on you, it also makes it less likely you’ll receive an adequate answer. Furthermore, being rude while representing an organization, party or ideology reflects poorly on those as a whole.
5. Be mindful of who you’re representing. Many times you may be at an event on behalf of an organization. If this is the case, make sure that the question you ask best represents your organization’s interests. If you’re unsure if the content of your question is contrary to your organization’s beliefs, it is best to not ask the question at all. Also, be sure to introduce yourself clearly with your name and the organization.
As some other tips to keep in mind, run through the question several times in your head in order to make sure it fits all of the above points and you’re comfortable with the wording and phrasing. Make sure that if you speak you are loud enough for everyone to hear, but especially whoever is answering your question. As one final thought, question and answer sessions are usually short so it’s necessary to prepare your question with the above points quickly to have a chance of actually being able to ask it. By keeping these above points in mind and having a little practice, asking questions can become an easy task and help you make a good impression and further your career.
Rick Barton is an intern with America’s Future Foundation and a participant in the Koch Internship Program.
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